Pheasant Breeding & Care:
Keeping pheasants, like any animal, carries responsibities and it is useful to find out as much as possible about them before you buy your birds. Below I have added information about our pheasants which may be helpful to anyone considering keeping them or even breeding pheasants. There are many links to different aspects of pheasant rearing included (from our personal experience) and I will continue to add more throughout the coming months and years. If you wish to know something I have not written about please get in touch with me (Zoe) at the above e-mail address and I will try my best to help. Links to information about each individual bird species we keep are on our homepage.
Pheasants (/ˈfɛzənt/) are birds of several genera within the subfamilyPhasianinae, of the family Phasianidae in the order Galliformes. The family's native range is restricted to Asia.
Pheasants are characterised by strong sexual dimorphism, males being highly decorated with bright colors and adornments such as wattles and longtails. Males are usually larger than females and have longer tails. Males play a part in rearing the young. Pheasants typically eat seeds and some insects.
The best-known is the common pheasant, which is widespread throughout the world in introduced feral populations and in farm operations. Various other pheasant species are popular in aviaries, such as the golden pheasant(Chrysolophus pictus).
Bornean Fireback Pheasants
Crested Argus Pheasants
Szechuan White-eared Pheasants
Sumatran Peacock Pheasants aka Bronze-tailed Peacock Pheasants
Temminck's Tragopan Pheasants
Buying Ornamental Pheasants
With many different pheasants to choose from it can be tricky deciding what to buy and I have included a different page, “Choosing Pheasants”, on this website, to help anyone to decide which species they might prefer. However after that decision has been made there are still many important factors to check to make sure you buy the best birds possible.
Pheasants are probably not the easiest birds to breed partly because there is such a limited stock of pure birds (birds which are not hybrids of different species or even subspecies). Unfortunately many birds are far from perfect. At Allandoo we are constantly trying to improve our stock and due to the fact that we have more space than the average keeper and also more time to spend with our birds we are able to have at least a few pairs of most of the species that we own. There are a couple of exceptions however due to the lack of birds available for us to buy. Having more birds helps when it comes to choosing which birds breed well together to produce the best chicks. If a bird does not breed well we can usually find a customer that does not wish to keep birds for breeding and is more than happy to buy a bird at a much cheaper rate even if it is not a 1st class stud or the most fertile of females.
When buying pheasants, if possible, take a good look at the bird. There are some things like a little feather pecking which may not be a huge problem but do check that the bird does not feel thin. Look for parasites crawling on the bird. Do not buy anything crawling with lice as even though they can be treated it is quite likely the bird has other health problems and that is why the parasites have had the chance to become abundant.
Although the bird may well be a bit shocked at being caught and can pant a little until it has calmed down do look and see that it is not struggling for breath. There are a few respiratory diseases common in pheasants and if the area near the eyes and base of the beak (at the face wattles) is contracting when the bird is breathing , if the eyes or nostrils are watery or if the bird's breathing sounds “rattly” stay well clear.
Try and buy birds which stand well with good strong looking straight legs and toes. It is better if you can have a chance to see the birds wandering about before they are caught to make sure they are healthy as a bird sitting hunched up may not be. They should walk well without knocking their “knees” or high stepping which once again seem to be common traits in ornamental pheasant species, in the UK at least. Also check the legs are smooth as rough legs with raised scales are a sign of scaly leg caused by a mite which buries under the skin.
Another thing I like to look for which although it may not be a serious problem, at least health wise, is something which I have noticed often and that is droopy wings. Try and buy birds which hold their wings up well as this does seem to be hereditary and improves the look of the bird tremendously. It is easier to see if there are any problems with the wings when the bird is relaxed. If it has been chased around the pen and is flustered it may well keep its wings down a little and it could be that there is no problem with the bird at all. Angel wing is where the wing sticks out unnaturally. We have found it to be a problem with a lot of the Eared Pheasants and sometimes we still get the occasional bird with a slight problem although we do regularly see birds much worse. Yet again when we do have a bird with a problem we do greatly reduce the cost of the bird or sometimes just find it a good home. Angel wing does not affect the health of the bird but it is best never to use a bird like this for breeding.
The skin colour of a bird should not be pale. Obviously there are differences from one species to another but if the skin does not look a good bright colour the bird may be unhealthy or at the least not used to a life outdoors. Once a bird has been living in accomodation which allows access outdoors the skin colour deepens and the plumage will have a sheen which is absent on indoor birds. If the feathers look dull the bird may not be sufficiently waterproofed for life outside and may well perish if allowed to sit outdoors during even a short shower of rain. As with skin colour a lack of any shine to the plumage may also point to illness in a bird.
The above points may well seem like a lot to remember when going to collect your new bird but it is always best to be prepared and it soon becomes natural and easy to see the difference between a good pheasant and an unhealthy or poorly bred one.
Lady Amherst Pheasant - Displaying Aggressive Behavior
Great Argus Pheasant Mating Dance (argusianus argus)
- Choosing Pheasants:
For many who show an interest in keeping pheasants it has been the colours of the Golden Pheasant which has first attracted them to the idea. The fact that they are a little different from the usual aviary birds can also draw some attention. At Allandoo we now have nineteen different species or subspecies. We are keen to increase this but unfortunately we are never going to have enough time to breed all the birds we would like. So how do we, or you, choose which birds to keep? With so many wonderful and fascinating species this is a tricky business. Below are a few things which are worth thinking about before buying birds. We have only mentioned species which we keep ourselves as they are the ones we have most experience of. To find out more about each species please click on their name on our Homepage.
What do you want the birds for?
The Tragopans are striking looking birds but can sometimes stay under cover during the best part of a warm summer day. They do enjoy the shade so if you like to be out in the sunshine admiring your birds it might be better to choose birds which will also want to make the most of the summer sunshine. The Firebacks are tropical birds and although they can be shy when they are chicks as they mature they do have more of a tendency to show off and will spend a lot of time outside doing just that especially as the weather warms up. If you are working most of the day and will be around more in the evening the Tragopans are more likely to be out of their shelter and will be quite happy for you to visit them then. Of course there are many of the pheasants which could be chosen for their looks. The Golden and Lady Amherst's Pheasants are probably the best known and are a popular choice. The Himalayan Monal is certainly an amazing sight particularly with the sun shining on the magnificently irredescent plumage of the cock bird. If you like a bird with more delicate features then the Peacock Pheasants or the Copper pheasants may be more what you are looking for.
The biggest personalities are without doubt the Eared Pheasants. They are always eager to be noticed. They are certainly playful as they will jump up to try and see you or to retrieve a treat. They may well make a mess with their food and water and I'm sure they try and have a conversation with me when I go and see them.
This can depend partly on how the birds are reared but some species do seem to have a friendlier, more gentle approach and yet become brave enough to be hand fed without a huge amount of time having to be spent with them. In my opinion the Tragopans are an excellent example of a friendly species. Once they have settled in and got used to their owner they will come forward without having to be coaxed and gently but not nervously eat from your hand. They will wait quietly by their gate for you to make your appearance. If you happen to be carrying anything with you which looks interesting they will look inquisitively at it and might give it a delicate peck. They are quite likely to hop out of their aviary to meet you and straight back in again following you around.
Most pheasants which are easily available are also easy to look after but they are not all as simple to breed. If you are hoping to have many chicks the Lady Amherst's, Goldens and Silvers are usually the easiest pheasants to breed and can lay a good many eggs in the breeding season. Some birds such as the Peacock Pheasants, Monals and Tragopans will be unlikely to exceed a dozen eggs. Some species can be quite choosy when it comes to their partner and incompatibility can be a problem. This is not unusual with the Monals or Tragopans and we have also experienced this with our Eared Pheasants. We had one hen laying only infertile eggs. Once she had laid around 10 infertile eggs we decided to move her partner to another hen who had laid all fertile eggs. When we swapped the two cock birds round both hens immediately started to lay only fertile eggs. In the following years these birds have continued to give us fertile eggs without any problems. Some birds can take a while to reach maturity with the Firebacks often being three or even four years old before breeding. Usually however when they do start laying they can have over 20 eggs in a season if the eggs are removed from the nest. Some species such as the long tailed pheasants (Syrmaticus) like the Copper, Mikado and Reeves are more likely to be aggressive to their hens. With these birds it is best to have extra pens available so the birds can be kept separate if necessary.
Are there more disadvantages with some species than others?
Of all our birds, the noisiest are the Eared Pheasants and Monals. If you have close neighbours, who are easily upset, it would be best to stay clear of these birds. They do not make a noise for much of the time however and do not call every morning but they are louder than our other birds. The quietest are the Peacock Pheasants who have a lovely call on occasions when they are heard at all.
The Vieillot's and Bornean Crested Firebacks and the Peacock Pheasants are not hardy. They will need some source of heat during the winter. If living in a particularly cold region of the UK the Siamese Fireback Pheasants should also have some extra heat during the worst weather.
Pheasants really do need an aviary they will not do well in a chicken coop. The Eared Pheasants and Monals, especially, enjoy lots of space. The Peacock Pheasants and Golden Pheasants will manage fine in an aviary around 150 square feet. The other species should have a larger area.
Some pheasant species are costly due to the fact that they are rare, difficult to breed successfully or lay only a few eggs in a year. The cost of building an aviary is also expensive. However pheasants are much cheaper than other birds or animals that are as unusual as them and the cost of looking after your birds and feeding them is very little once the aviary is built.
Most of the time I like to wear my jeans and wellies when feeding our birds and I will not forget the first time our birds saw me wearing a skirt. I had been away for a good part of the day at a meeting and decided to check our birds when I returned still wearing my good suit. I thought there was something terribly wrong when all the pheasants seemed terrified, they were demented creatures making a racket and flying about in a crazed manner. Then I realised they did not recognise me. Once I was changed into my usual "bird clothes" they were all perfectly relaxed. Unfortunately pheasants do not seem to be overly endowed with brain cells and this should be taken into consideration at all times. They are fine with situations which stay the same but if something unusual occurs they are prone to over react.
If none of what I have said is putting you off keeping pheasants I am sure you will find a bird you will love. We have great pleasure watching all of our birds and every one is different. I have tried to give an idea of what at least a few species are like but this is not set in stone as they are all individuals with their own personalities.
(Preferably In An Aviary)
We are often asked if our pheasants can be kept free range. This is not impossible. Many people do manage this quite successfully (usually if they shut them in at night) but we do not recommend it. I very much wish we could as it seems the kinder thing to do. Pheasants, though, are easy prey especially for foxes. Dogs and mink and cats are other predators and for young birds the list grows much longer to include many raptors, stoats, weasels, rats and more. Any eggs your pheasants lay if they live that long could be taken by all sorts of animals including hedgehogs.
Another consideration is the birds leaving the confines of your "safe" garden and facing terrible dangers such as traffic. They do fly much better than most chickens and manage pretty well even with their wing feathers clipped. To add to the fact that your new birds may well disappear you could then find yourself in bother for releasing birds, into the wild, which are not endemic to the UK.
Of course in an ideal world a beautiful variety of birds could roam around the garden and even the neighbourhood in perfect safety and live harmoniously with everything and everyone they meet along the way. They would live happily and raise their little chicks close by so that we can see how well they are doing. Unfortunately if a number of birds are kept together then the parentage is more difficult to ascertain and chicks could easily be hybrids if more than one species is kept. Although that can also happen in an aviary, it is easier to separate birds to make sure the correct pheasants are paired up for breeding.
We are honestly of the belief that keeping pheasants at liberty (free range) is more likely to lead to heartbreak. It may seem more "cruel" to keep birds caged in but if they are given plenty of room and lots of plants especially shrubs and most pheasants also appreciate grass, as well as shelter, perches and good quality food your birds will be extremely content and will probably do much better than their wild relatives.
Keeping the birds in aviaries is not without its problems however. Although most of the time pheasants prefer to walk, rather than fly, if they take fright they will head straight up at great speed and hit their heads on the aviary roof. Therefore it helps greatly if this is made of soft netting and not wire mesh.
Vermin can be a major headache. Mice are the biggest problem we have. We do keep quite a few cats which help a great deal however many mice probably never leave the confines of the aviary as there is no need - they have a perfectly comfortable life in them. It is a risky business using poison near the birds so we prefer to trap them. We have tried live traps which were supposed to catch quite a few mice at once but all they managed to do was give them a good supper. It seems the traps were no more difficult to escape from than a revolving door. So for now we are sticking to the simple spring traps which only catch one mouse at a time. As we have to use loads of these it is a very time consuming job. We use about half a dozen traps baited with peanuts under a large tub and put these in about 6 - 8 pens at a time. Once we think we have cleared these aviaries of mice we move the traps to different pens. We hang our feeders up for the bigger birds that can reach them a bit higher which does help a little but mice will still collect spilled food even if they cannot easily get into feeders. Treadle feeders can be bought for game pheasants which open when the bird steps on it but these are big containers meant for large numbers of birds, not a pair. They are also expensive and some of our smaller species would probably not be heavy enough to open them.
We keep larger traps in small tunnels around the outside perimeter of our aviaries to catch rats as well as the occasional stoat or weasel. As rats are inclined to run along the side of buildings rather than out in the open they do tend to run straight into our traps and have never been much of a problem.
We have also been lucky where foxes are concerned. Most of our pens are built directly onto bedrock and so will be impenetrable from beneath. If there is any depth to the soil under pens wire mesh can be planted in the ground at a depth of at least 18 inches down and bent outwards from the aviary (for another 18 inches or more) at a 90 degree angle to deter animals from digging their way in to the birds. Our German Shepherd is also a great deterrent to any foxes.
If anything is likely to climb onto the top of your aviary an electric wire (the same stuff that is used for cattle) can be positioned around the edge about an inch above the aviary. This will hopefully be successful in keeping cats and raptors at bay.
We have no shortage of birds of prey about. These include Buzzards, Owls, Sparrowhawks and a Kestrel which is always close at hand but these do not bother our birds nearly as much as our resident heron which always starts our birds squawking. They also tend to become worried if there are a few crows overhead. Maybe we shouldn't let them watch so many horror movies!
If anyone has any questions about keeping pheasants in an aviary please feel free to ask. I will help if I can. Also if you have any tips, especially regarding mice, do not hesitate to e-mail me at:
Matthew Diaz has written a tip for catching mice:
Using sticky peanut flavoured sweets or peanut butter in the mousetrap makes it more difficult for the mouse to make a quick get away as the mouse will be unable to grab it like a peanut or a piece of cheese.
Below I have included e-mails from Alexandra Pain in response to the above article regarding pheasants bought from us, to be kept free range.
Hi Zoe. I have just been looking at your website about keeping pheasants free range. You may remember we bought 3 cocks (2 tragopans and a golden) from you at the end of last year to run with our domestic ducks and wildfowl collection and I thought you would like to know how they were getting on. Having read your article on your website just now I thought it would be appropriate to let you know my experience as a beginner going 'outdoors'.
When the pheasants arrived we put them in an old brick stable with the door meshed up for the first 2 months so that we could get to know them and also wait until we could persuade our local bird expert to come and clip their wings. Living in the lofty stable with all mod-cons would have been a nice life for them, but that is not how we wanted to appreciate them. As you may recall, we have a 2 acre fenced compound which is surrounded by a 12' electrified fence, in which we keep a small collection of rare-species ducks and geese plus some domestic ducks, 13 guinea-pigs and a pet rabbit! Within this area are some old farm buildings and the vegetable plot. At the beginning of December last year we finally released the pheasants who all promptly ran to find cover. It was clear they were very uncomfortable with the huge space having been confined to small areas all their lives. The next morning there were only two left (the satyr and the golden. The Temminck's was nowhere to be seen. Despite searching the whole of the farm on horseback with duck nets in hand we never found him. It was clear the birds couldn't fly. The only clue was a small 4" square gap where the mesh joined the edge of one of the farm buildings where we found some feathers. I think he got lucky when he ran towards the building and maybe hit the mesh and pinged off a couple of the fixing staples. However, the story does have a happy ending...... the other two chaps spent almost the next 5 months in an old shed under some old hay bales where I duly visited them to provide room service on a daily basis bringing selections of fruit and veg. Whilst they seemed content it wasn't much fun for me as I had each time to climb a grassy bank to get to them! Finally, I decided to withhold room service and starved them out! They came out after a couple of days and agreed to eat with the ducks before running back home to their shed. Gradually they came out more and more (mostly in the evening) until they now wander about quite happily around the compound although they have found the delights of the vegetable garden. They have become particularly friendly and when I call them usually appear for some food. They are of limited intellect it would seem as they only know one word which is 'peanuts' which covers all food options! I have grown really fond of the two of them and thought you would like to see the pics which I took last week. The Golden is really getting his colours now and the Satyr Tragopan also (although I am not sure how much of him will eventually go red - he is generally splodgy all over. Will he get his blue bits in the breeding season only? I am not really sure what to expect from him!). Both birds seem to get on really well with each other. I am sure they are very happy as their clipped wings have grown back and they seem to have no inclination to fly off. I would go so far as to say they have forgotten how to fly because I have noticed they make a big fuss of coming down from something high and will make great efforts to hop down in stages rather than fly down even if it is to get their feed.
As we have got so fond of the pheasants we were keen to expand our collection. We are building a new small animal unit on the back of the stable block which is actually part of the compound. In here we will be able to provide some shelter which could be heated in winter if necessary. Do you think a Monal would appreciate this lifestyle? There was also another variety which had a blue head which took our fancy (can't remember the name). I think if we were to do this again we would have much younger birds (chicks) and bring them up with some ducklings in an open pen in the compound and then introduce them to the space at a younger age. This way we would not induce a state of 'agoraphobia' with a bird that had been cage reared. Perhaps you could let me know when you have any chicks which would be beyond the vulnerable stage but still young enough to cope with the outdoor lifestyle we want to offer them. As before, we could collect.
Yes, please print my letter if you feel it would help. In a nutshell my experience of free range pheasants are:
1. Get birds as young as possible. Older birds raised in a confined area can't cope mentally with the space.
2. Clip their wings before turning loose. My friend who did ours is the bird expert at DEFRA HQ and he recommended doing only 1 wing (as far back as you can reasonably get it) rather than both wings. Apparently they can fly better with two short wings than 1 long and 1 short which enables them only to spin round (I think this applied particularly to the Tragopans).
3. It shouldn't be necessary to clip the wings after they have become used to their environment - ours don't want to leave!
4. Fencing has to be REALLY HIGH to keep them in. Ours is 5' netted and electrified post and rail with another 7' of pheasant netting on top. Whatever the height of the fence don't attract them up there with a 'roosting rail'!
5. In our limited experience our male birds get on really well together and with all the other birds and species they live with (this includes food sharing that is meant to be specific to each species!).
6. Although our birds occupy a big space they are always keen to come and say hello.
7. As time has gone on our birds are quite happy about coming out into the open spaces where they can be particularly appreciated. They still like patches of undergrowth and old buildings to hide in.
8. In a nutshell it has been a great success - but be patient!
How To Raise Your Own Pheasants
When we first thought about keeping pheasants we knew we needed to build the aviary. With the cost of buying a chicken coop being expensive the only way we could manage a large enclosure for some pheasants was to do the work ourselves. This, although exciting, was a daunting task. Alan had done a little joinery work on the farm at times and felt we could manage but I hadn't done any sort of woodwork since making a kitchen roll holder at secondary school a good number of years before (not a lot of experience really). I was rather expecting the aviary to fall down until we were about half way through building it and I finally realised we were managing to do quite a decent job.
After the tedious task of gaining planning permission was finally over we started off by clearing about 540 square meters of land of grass and our heavy clay soil. Our aviary was to include 16 pens with a safety passage down the centre. Our garden with an existing hedge is in front of where we wanted to build but we decided the aviary would need some protection from the wind on all sides so we intended to surround the building with more hedging. We set about marking out where each pen would start and finish. Each shelter was the entire width of its pen (3.6m) and 2.15m high at the front and 2m at the back. The entrance (doorway) in each shelter was made 0.9m wide and 2m high. We had five fully enclosed shelters and 11 which were left open from the ground at the front up to 1.2m. We did not include a floor in the shelters opting to keep only a thick layer of sand. Our Divisions between each aviary were built with wooden boarding up to a height of 0.6m with the remaining 1.55m above being comprised of 25mm wire netting (16 gauge). Our entire aviary was covered with soft 25mm nylon netting. Below are a couple of plans showing the side elevation of our aviaries and the front of one of the shelters.
We thought it best to include a safety passage which runs the entire length of the aviary between the two rows of eight pens. The passageway is 1.2m wide. We have the gates into each aviary opening out into the passage but this is only personal preference. Corner posts were 2.15m high and 75mm squared. Rails used for aviary and shelter frames were 3.6m x 85mm x 35mm. Boarding used was 3.6m x 0.15m x 18mm. We used the boarding overlapped when constructing the shelters. Originally we had roofed shelters with boarding and roofing felt but would not recommend this as it did not last well. We now have box profile metal sheeting laid on top of our board roofs which is a big improvement. If anyone has further questions about building an aviary we will try our best to help so please feel free to ask.
If you wish to see our progress in building our first aviary just click on the pictures below.
1. In the beginning
2. The site was cleared
3. The first of the sand went in
4. Posts & boulders were next
5. The banking was complete
6. The building has started
7. The Plants get a head start
8. We're getting there
9. Aviary complete!
10. An enclosed shelter
Mixing Pheasants :
This, however, is not a simple yes or no answer. Often many of the pheasant species will mix fine with poultry but they do need more room than most chickens and will not appreciate a very small pen. They are also much better at flying than a lot of the breeds of poultry so it is generally a good idea to add soft roof netting to their aviary. Pheasants certainly do not settle in a traditional chicken coop. They will really not like to have an area less than 100 square feet and that is a bare minimum for only a few species such as the Peacock Pheasants or possibly the Goldens. Our smallest aviaries are 144 square feet and these are only kept as spare pens for short term stays, a single bird, or a small number of chicks.
Poultry are actually descendants of the Red Junglefowl which belongs to the pheasant family. As such there can be territorial disputes but often the pecking order will be quicly sorted and they will live fairly amicably, pheasants and poultry, side by side.
If you wish to mix Ornamental Pheasants with other bird species it is usually best to house them with birds which will not be direct competitors for food and roosts. Birds which have a tendency to stay perched in the top half of the aviary more than on the ground are best. I have seen pheasants mixed successfully with budgies, cockatiels, starlings, pigeons, parrots and waterfowl. I have also heard from other breeders who have kept quail, turacos and finches and with them without problems. The list I'm sure could be much longer than this but these are only the species I can say I have definitely seen or had conversations about with other breeders housing them together.
We have reared a few silkie and guineafowl chicks alongside our pheasants in the past and they were ok together although we did have to move both the Guineafowl and Chickens in with older pheasants after a while as they grew at a much faster rate than the pheasants we originally kept with them. I cannot say how they were as adults as we only kept them together when they were still poults.
Although we keep our Ornamental Pheasants on their own they are joined on a regular basis by some of the smaller wild birds that fly in through our roof netting. These are mainly sparrows, chaffinches and dunnocks with the occasional great tit, blue tit and robin. The pheasants very rarely bother the smaller birds even when they steal a meal worm from just under a pheasants beak.
The story can be completely different when trying to mix pheasant species. We have a good number of pens with more than a pair of birds in them during the Autumn but as the days start to stretch in early spring many pheasants will suddenly become much more aggressive so it can be much riskier to have numerous birds together by this time. We usually sort out our breeding pairs early in the year and keep them on their own. There are however a few cock pheasants which have to stay completely separated from any other birds and will only be allowed into their mates once laying has begun. Even then a couple of cock birds only have limited access as they will attack their hen as soon as she no longer accepts their advances. We do have some birds which live together on a permanent basis and seem perfectly happy and at ease with each others company. We have had a pair of Grey Peacock Pheasants who share their aviary with a trio of Golden Pheasants. We also have a pair of Satyr Tragopans which bred very well alongside a pair of Goldens who also succeeded in producing a good many fertile eggs this year. These birds were in pens measuring 288 square feet.
Some Pheasant species can be much easier to mix than others but this is still usually young immature birds which can be mixed with a breeding pair after the breeding season is finished. It can make rearing chicks much easier if we can rely on some adult birds accepting youngsters sharing their aviary. We always put the young poults into an aviary and then add the adult birds as it causes less problems if the territory does not already belong to the stronger birds. Tragopan Pheasants have proven for us to be one of the best species to mix with chicks and also often the smaller Peacock Pheasants. It is important to always keep watch for any problems which may occur. The Peacock hens for example will in no time at all be smaller than Silver, Reeves and many other pheasant chicks so it is normally best to keep them with only the smaller chicks. Not all Tragopans are likely to be as generous with their space as others it does depend very much on the individual. We have a mature Mikado hen in with Silver and Swinhoe chicks as she could not stay with her rather violent partner, luckily she is quiet natured enough to do well with the much younger birds. Eared Pheasants can be difficult to mix and usually have to kept by themselves. That being said we have a White Eared hen who was on her own but when we had a Lady Amherst cock who was attacking his pen mates and also a Monal who was bullying the birds with him we decided to risk putting them with her and they got on brilliantly with each other right from the start. It is often fine to mix pheasant species if hens and cocks are kept separate and out of sight (at least not in an aviary adjacent or opposite each other). We have an aviary at the moment with seven mature Golden cocks in it and they look absolutely stunning when they are all wandering about in close contact. They have never bothered each other but if hens were added there would certainly be injuries if not deaths as one cock would be unlikely to tolerate another.
All in all with a bit of care and consideration for the pheasants natural habits these wonderful birds can share their lives with many other birds. It is generally wise though to keep a spare room in case of rather unneighbourly disputes.
Beautiful Birds - Chinese Golden Pheasants (Chrysolophus pictus) and White Pheasant
Raising Pheasants (day old)
We Recommend these websites :
Pheasant Project (Part 1)-Building the Pheasant Small Coop
Aviary Plants :
I have been asked numerous times what plants I would recommend for an aviary so I thought I would write about them.
I am NOT going to write a huge list of poisonous plants. I have come across a couple of very good sites which have written such a list so please take a look at them if you wish to make sure you do not include anything toxic. The sites are: "HotSpot for Birds" and "The Budgie and Parakeet Place".
I am starting with a plant which although it is considered poisonous we DO have in our aviaries as many pheasants live among them in the wild and do include them in their diet. The Rhododendron. I wanted to try and create a home for our birds, at least a little like the habitat their wild relatives would be used to. As many species are endemic to areas covered with Rhododendrons and bamboo I decided to try a few plants. I have to admit I was somewhat anxious, but as there are a huge amount of poisonous plants that birds eat or nest in without coming to any harm I took a chance. When I then found our young Rhododendrons to be half eaten by the Satyr tragopans.... I panicked. The birds of course knew better, the Rhododendrons were just a tasty snack. They have been enjoying them ever since and have never looked ill at all. In fact they are positively thriving.
All the other plants in our aviaries are edible without any risk whatsoever. The bamboos have been a great success. They are continually nibbled but being a tough spreading plant still manage to survive and grow. Other great survivors are willow, currant bushes and Leycesteria formosa (pheasant berry). All of these plants tend to be eaten and yet will continue to grow quite happily. Other plants (mainly shrubs and trees) we use for cover or food are: Beech, Crab apple, Plum, Buddleia (butterfly bush), Dogwood, Snowberry, Cotoneaster, Honeysuckle (mostly the evergreen variety), Rosemary, Hibiscus, some conifers, fennel and ornamental grasses. A few smaller plants readily devoured include more grasses, Dandelion, Chickweed, Nasturtiums and trefoils. I could go on and on about suitable plants but you would soon get bored reading and click off my site.
As we have a lot of birds we do have to try to keep our costs down. We do not want to try an expensive plant, for it to be eaten or dug up. Therefore the plants we have chosen are often ones bought cheaply as hedging. Our most expensive were definitely the bamboos but they were certainly worth a bit extra. Something else we find useful are plants that self seed such as the Pheasant berry, Buddleia, Fennel and many smaller perennials or annuals, this gives us a supply for any new aviaries or bald patches in existing ones. We rarely waste anything and prunings are usually cut big enough to add some extra or fresh cover in the birds shelters. We have bought many of our shrubs from a great company called "Cheviot Trees".
Breeding Pheasants :
For success in breeding pheasants it is important to start with good birds. It is very unlikely that you will be able to breed good offspring from bad parents. It can be very difficult with some species to find unrelated birds as they have been inbred for a number of years. Another problem which is often found with pheasants is hybridisation. Although the hybrids can look good and be perfectly healthy as they have often been mistaken as pure bred birds the gene pool of true species has shrunk dramatically. We are only using birds in excellent condition, pure bred and as unrelated as possible to give our chicks the best chance we can genetically.
The next stage is to create an environment the birds will be comfortable in. Although it might not be as "clean" as concrete or plastic we decided to go for a more natural approach. We give the birds lots of plants, posts, boulders and wooden shelters and perches to make them feel more at home. The birds have plenty to occupy themselves with and seem relaxed in their aviaries. We give the birds lots of sand for dust bathing and any birds that are likely to use nest boxes have these included in the aviary.
Always of great importance is diet. Our birds get a good variety of fruit, vegetation, grain, peanuts and live food as well as their pheasant pellets. We occasionally offer other treats such as scrambled egg. This is usually fed to our peacock pheasants especially, during late January and February. We can not get the pheasant breeder pellets at this time as the game pheasants (which the food is produced for) start to breed later than our Peacock pheasants. We include milk and finely ground egg shell in the scrambled egg to give the birds the nutrients needed to produce their own eggs. Our birds are fed the breeder pellets as soon as it becomes available. They will be fed this throughout the Spring and Summer. If possible the birds should be on the breeder pellets at least six weeks before they start laying.
The final consideration is how to keep the birds as stress free as possible. All of the things mentioned above certainly help but often problems occur among the birds. They are extremely territorial and this can lead to disaster. Giving the birds plenty of places to hide is vital. We always try to keep a few empty pens. This might seem a bit wasteful and it is not always easy but it has often proven to be a life saver. If we find an injured bird we can separate it from the offender to give it a chance to recover and possibly swap partners around to improve the situation once he/she (usually she) is well again. As the breeding season approaches the cock can become very aggressive and can attack the hen unmercifully. To minimise this we often keep the same species opposite each other. This way the cocks distract each other and they have no need to take their aggression out on their mate. The hen is far safer and becomes far more confident, the males are seen much more and will often put on a wonderful display and everyone is happier, the birds and us.
How Its Made Pheasant Breeding
Healthy Treats For Pheasants :
Pheasants enjoy a great variety of foods and there is no shortage of nutritous snacks available. Our birds eat Marsdens Pheasant pellets as their staple diet but all our birds love their extra treats and we feel they benefit greatly from having them, in moderation, on a daily basis. I have included a few here for now but in future months will add more about the benefits of certain foods other than pheasant pellets.
Black & Red Currants
Black and red currants are a pheasant favourite and are extremely nutritious in fact blackcurrants are usually now labelled a "superfood".
They are just as good for pheasants as for humans with a very high vitamin C content (around four times as much as the same weight in oranges).
Black currants are slightly higher in nutrional value than the red but although our pheasants do love both when given them together they tend to eat the red ones first.
Red currants have three - four times more vitamin C than oranges do. They are also high in vitamin B, iron, potassium, phosphorus and fibre. They are good for the immune system, helping to digest other nutrients as well as having antiseptic properties. They also contain vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, zinc and the trace elements, copper, manganese and selenium.
Like the red currants the black version is extremely rich in vitamin C as well as the other nutrients above, such as potassium which help the muscles and nerves to function and also maintains the bodies' acid balance. Some of the health benefits provided by the nutritional content of black currants include improved kidney function. Black currants are a significantly higher source in antioxidants than blueberries. The concentration of antioxidents tends to be higher the darker the fruit is so the black currants will be better than the red currants in this instance. Black currants also cotain the essential fatty acid GLA (one of the omega 6 group).
Dandelions are an easily found weed which is "in season" from very early in Spring until very late in Autumn.
Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamins A, B complex, C, D & K and a wealth of minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper, choline, boron, silicon, and calcium. Dandelion leaves contain more iron and calcium than spinach and more vitamin A than any other salad ingredient. They also have much more Beta carotene than carrots.
At the very least dandelions sre great cleansers, removing toxins from the body, but unlike similar plants with diuretic properties there are no problems due to a depletion in potassium as the dandelion has a high quantity of this essential mineral in its leaves. There have been recent animal studies that indicate that dandelion may lower total cholesterol levels and improve levels of good cholesterol. Dandelion root is reported to have antiviral properties. It can be used as a digestive aid and to stimulate the appetite. With so many nutrients packed in to dandelion leaves they are a great addition to any pheasants diet..
Mealworms are high in protein (around 47 - 49%). Feeding livefood is both interesting and nutritious for the birds. In particular during the breeding season the cocks will often try to attract a hen with mealworms. During the spring and summer the Tragopan hens which are normally not interested in livefood will often start to prefer them to any other treat even if they are not rearing chicks. This may be a natural instinct to gather insects and bugs at this time of year for young (whether they have them or not) or it could just be that as a source of animal protein it is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids that are not all contained in vegetable proteins.
An advantage to feeding mealworms is that they do not carry any pathogens (any germ that causes disease) or parasites unlike maggots or earthworms.
Peanuts are the no.1 best loved food by pheasants. There are no species that don't enjoy them!
They are a high fat food however most of the fat they do contain is mono-unsaturated which is a healthy type and good for the heart as it can actually lower the amount of bad cholesterol in the body. Peanuts have high levels of protein, niacin (beneficial for blood flow), folate, thiamin, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper. Peanuts also contain vitamin E which is a powerful antoxidant aswell as a small amount of calcium and vitamin D.
by P. A. Robertson
by J. Delacour (Author)
by Jean Delacour
May 1, 2002
by Stephen Green-Armytage
August 17, 1999
by Paul A. Johnsgard
by Jean Theodore Delacour
Further reading :
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